Monday, January 14, 2019

Rhetorical devices from "The Art of War" book

Rhetorical devices always add color to the speech. However, it is very hard to come up with the apt rhetorical devices (simile, metaphor etc.,) for conveying a thought. Recently, I read the book "The Art of War" and it had some interesting rhetorics. I've listed a few of them below:

  1. If you looked at the stars from inside a well, no more than a few stars would be visible to you. If you look from a hilltop, then you can see when they first appear and when they fade away. It's not that they're any brighter - but your setting changes what you see. Subjectivity is the inside of the well, impartiality is the top of the hill. When intelligence rides on subjectivity, it knows little; when it rides on impartiality, it knows a lot. 
  2. A rigid building may be solid, but under the stress of an earthquake, it may cause it to crumble. Whereas, a tree standing next to it can bend and flex to absorb the shock and therefore remains intact. 
  3. Those skilled in warfare move the enemy and are not moved by the enemy. 
  4. A victorious army is like a ton against an ounce. A defeated army is like an ounce against a ton. 
  5. A victorious army is like pent up waters released bursting through deep gorge.
  6. Those skilled in warfare manoeuvres are as endless as the heavens and earth, as inexhaustible as the rivers and the seas. Like the sun and the moon, they set and rise again. 
  7. An army that acts with full force is like a stone thrown at an egg
  8. An army's formation should be like water - adapts to the ground when flowing.
  9. An army advances like the wind, marches like the forest and invades like fire.
  10. During conflicts, balance can be a hinderance; Inequality is what helps put a quick end to the disorder. This is analogous to a sick person relying on medicine to get well. If the medicine and pathogens are of equal strength, what good would taking the medicine be?
(Also read: 10 Servant Leadership lessons from "The Art of War" Book)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

10 Servant Leadership lessons from "The Art of War" Book

Recently, I had a chance to read the book "Sun Tzu - The Art of War (Spirituality for Conflict)" by Thomas Huynh. Thomas Huynh has made an attempt to explain to the readers how "The Art of War" principles can be followed by ordinary individuals and corporates to effect a positive change in their life or company or community.  I learned a lot of Servant Leadership lessons from this book and I have captured some of them in this blog post.

Sun Tzu, who lived  several thousand years ago, was a military general and philosopher in China. He captured his wisdom for warfare in the book "The Art of War", which has been treasured for nearly 2500 years. Several notable personalities such as Colin Powell, Bruce Lee and Ronald Reagon were influenced by The Art of War.

1. Being practical and being compassionate are not mutually exclusive. Acting in a way that is both practical and compassionate has proved to be a secret weapon for success

2. Sun Tzu treated his soldiers like his own children, caring for their health and well-being. Even the captured enemy soldiers were not killed, but rather were treated well and incorporated into his own army

3. You don't have to be formally appointed to become a leader, you automatically become the defacto leader when you step-up and guide others out of a dilemma and into a better situation

4. Your leadership ability depends more on your actions, than on your official title, rank or status in life

5. Winning 100 times in 100 battles requires amazing skills and intelligence, but winning 100 times without fighting a single time demonstrates highest excellence. 

6. If you care about your supporters, you can discipline them and they in-turn will unite in purpose

7. Anger focuses your thoughts too much on yourself - your losses, your wants, your feelings and prevents you from dwelling compassionately on the needs and well being of others

8. Sun Tzu values leaders who can perform the basic, everyday tasks well over those who display flashy heroics in "isolated incidents"

9. The general who does not advance to seek glory or does not withdraw to avoid punishments, but cares for only the people's security and promotes the people's interests is the nation's treasure. 

10. The more you forget about yourself and shun glory, the more people will remember you and glorify you. 

Servant Leadership is a concept introduced by Robert Greenleaf in 1970. He says "The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead".  Sun Tzu talks about several leadership traits in his book "The Art of War", many of them resembling the Servant Leadership traits highlighted by Robert Greenleaf.  Today, several volunteering organizations and corporates practice the concept of Servent Leadership to maximise employee engagement, productivity and ownership. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Pathways - Project 4 - Tick Tick to Kick

I was 10 years old then. We were all watching a magic show, as a family. The magician pulled a lot of plastic straws one after the other from his mouth… I clapped my hands in excitement, jumped up and down. We were wowed by his trick.

(Also read: Pathways Ice Breaker - Who am I?)

Last week, I saw a video in Youtube. I saw a guy pulling out plastic straws from the mouth… but, this time I was not wowed… I was not excited… I was not jumping up and down. In fact, I was shocked … because the straw was pulled out from the mouth of a turtle… and it was profusely bleeding from the mouth… and moaning in pain.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and Guests,

Plastic production has increased 20 fold since 1964. Despite the growing demand, only 5% of plastics are recycled effectively, while 40% end up in landfill and oceans. Much of the remainder is burned to generate energy.

According to a new Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, there will be more plastic in the ocean by 2050, than fish. The world's oceans are clogged with plastic debris - plastic spoons, plastic plates, plastic covers and fishing nets.

Every year, nearly 8 million metric tones of plastic pollution enter the oceans from the coastal countries. Thats equivalent of dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.

In 2014, researchers from Gujarat did a post-mortem on the 1-ton carcass of a whale, which got washed away to the shore. They found four large plastic bags in the whale’s stomach. It appeared that the plastic had blocked the whale’s digestive system, which caused its death.

Why should you worry about it?  

You may think “Oh! Who cares if these species become extinct”. Wait a second… There are multiple ways in which plastics can creep from the oceans to the human food chain: The plastics in the ocean get disintegrated into smaller pieces over the times and they become what is called “micro-plastics”. Fishes mistake them for food and consume them,. Eventually, plastics fill their digestive system and they die. Or, a carelessly discarded plastic bag can break down in the sea, especially in warmer waters, and the process releases toxic chemicals that may be digested by fish. When these fishes end up in the human food chain, we get impacted too.

Whats the story in India? 

In 2017, Indians generated about 72 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, according to an ICRIER estimate. Out of this, about 10% was plastic. The problem was that India was mismanaging over 80% of its waste, while in the U.S. it was only 2%. We just throw plastics into regular trash bins or on the road.

What can we do about it? 

Tamilnadu Government has imposed a ban on using plastic items such as carry bags, plates, cups, flags, small sachets used in packaging water. Clock is already ticking and the ban will be imposed from the 1st of Jan 2019, to kick plastic out. However, the ban excludes using disposable plastic for packaging milk, curd, oil and medical utilities. So, there will be still some plastic around us… in our everyday life. How can we help the government and save our environment from plastics? I would like to share a 3 step segregation process that we follow at my home, to handle plastic:

Consolidate - We have a separate trash bin at home to put all the plastic waste - right from chocolate wrappers to empty oil cans to faulty mobile chargers, go in there.

Separate: Once every month, we identify plastic trash items that can be sold in the local waste paper mart and convert items such as water bottles, milk cover, broken mobile chargers into cash. We keep the rest of the plastic items such as thin plastic bags, chocolate wrappers, tooth brushes etc., at home. The moment someone buys your plastic waste, you can be rest-assured that it will be recycled. 

Facilitate safe disposal: We handover the plastic trash which cannot be sold - to the municipality conservation worker. He/she ensures that it is handled separately and sent for recycling. Most of the times, government uses such plastic waste for manufacturing cement or for laying roads.

(Also read: Pathways - Project 2 - E = M3R2)


All of us have a role to play in plastic waste management. Roz Savage, a famous ocean rower says “It is not right to manufacture billions of objects that are used for a matter of minutes and are then with us for centuries”. My request to all of you is to do CSF - Consolidate / Separate / Facilitate Safe Disposal of plastics, in addition to coming to CSF (Chennai Speakers Forum). We can’t wait… time is running out… to kick plastic out.